The Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) project director of St. Lawrence–Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) in upstate New York says, “In a rural, high-poverty area, having mental health counselors in the school buildings makes a huge difference in terms of both ease of assessment and access to services.” School-based services overcome the barrier of having to access services from outside or off-site agencies.
This project’s mental health counselors (who are Licensed Clinical Social Workers) work with students in pre-K through grade 12. One counselor works with three elementary schools and has established a good rapport with the teachers. When a teacher tells the counselor about a student who may be in need of mental health intervention (e.g., is having trouble academically and behaviorally, and educational assessments have not pinpointed the problem), the counselor visits the classroom to observe and to conduct an informal pre-screening. If the counselor thinks there is a possibility of a more serious issue, she then contacts the parents and asks for permission for the child to participate in a more intensive assessment. Any assessment and/or therapy that follows takes place within the school building, which makes it more accessible for families who may not have transportation and/or health insurance to cover outpatient psychological services. Parents also are more likely to accept services that do not require regularly losing time from work to drive their child to sessions.
In addition to providing one-on-one services, the mental health counselors model strategies for teachers to use when working with students who have particular issues. Counselors also meet weekly with a supervisor from the county mental health clinic for case review. These strategies ensure appropriate coordination and targeted delivery of services.
BOCES’s strong community partnerships complement their on-site mental health services. Communities that Care (CTC) Coalition, an all-volunteer group, serves as a coordinating body for mental health providers, local law enforcement, county agencies, among other organizations in St. Lawrence County. CTC, which served as the BOCES project management team, works in synergy to provide resources to better serve the community’s children, youth, and families—especially through mental health outreach.
Source: MH Guide, p. 17